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SURF announces new above ground research space

A rendering of the Institute for Underground Science at SURF in Lead.
A rendering of the Institute for Underground Science at SURF

Sanford Underground Research Facility is announcing a new initiative to build more research space in Lead.

The building will be located near the main entrance to the underground lab.

While the new facility won’t be underground, it will provide space for research and collaboration, a large auditorium as well as housing for researchers and their families.

Officials at SURF say research space is already at capacity.

The announcement comes a week after a particle physics panel that meets once a decade recommended the Department of Energy continued investment in expanding the old Homestake Mine for more underground research.

Michelle Kane, director of the SURF Foundation—a fundraising arm of the facility, says they're one of 16 underground labs vying for top research talent.

"The Institute for Underground Science at SURF holds a distinct advantage, harnessing the presence of visiting researchers and educators to strengthen their connection with South Dakota," Kane said. "This strategic positioning enables The Institute to further expand as the preferred destination for scientific conferences, workshops, symposiums, and programs that embrace inclusivity and hospitality to reach their goals."

The SURF Foundation has a goal of raising $100 million over next ten years to pay for the facility. Officials say The Institute will start a private fundraising campaign alongside the SURF Foundation.

In addition to research space, The Institute wants to host programming similar to an annual workshop that brought together leading physicists from around the world to Lead earlier this year.

“We talk often about building this intellectual community at SURF of not just experiment work or theory and workshops or whatever, but really both together and trying to build this hub where scientists from around the world are coming and doing physics from many different angles,” said Mike Headley, executive director of the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority.

Officials hope to complete construction by 2035.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.